Colonel William Davidson Chadick, A Vintage Vignette

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Colonel William Davidson Chadick
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
December 19, 2010

Confederate Colonel William Davidson Chadick is an enigma to those who believe Rebel forces fought simply to preserve the slavery system. In 1856, when slaves of a wealthy bachelor were freed and provided with money, the court selected Chadick to take them to Ohio. He got them successfully settled there after conferring with Ohio's governor. Chadick himself was born 1817 in Tennessee. At age 12 his family moved to Jackson County, Alabama, where four years later he affiliated for life with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Mink's Creek Campground. By age 19 he began to preach the gospel. He voraciously studied books and the techniques of famous preachers, such as Robert Donnell. He was too poor to attend college, so he began his ministry as a circuit rider, preaching in north Alabama and Tennessee for several years.

Chadick's first pastorate was at Bellefonte, where he also taught school for a couple of years. Later he served in Fayetteville, Tennessee, and Warrenton, Alabama. In 1841 in Bolivar, Alabama, Chadick met and married Malinda Davis. She died in Fayetteville in 1849. Before Malinda's death they had two sons, William and Edward, plus two daughters, Sue and Jennie. A “Jennie Davis” was reported to have married a Union officer in Huntsville, where Chadick's second wife and his children lived during the war. In 1866, after the Civil War, Sue married Captain Samuel Fordyce and spent a honeymoon in the North, visiting his relatives.

Before the war, in 1845, Chadick preached at Union Chapel in Madison County. Around 1848 he succeeded Robert Donnell as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Lebanon, Tennessee. Leaving that pastorate after two years, he became editor of The Banner of Peace newspaper. He left that line of work by 1854, becoming an endowment agent of the Theological Department of Cumberland University in Lebanon and continuing to travel and preach.

While living in Lebanon, Chadick met a refined Christian woman, Mary Jane Cook, born in Massachusetts. She became his second wife around 1851 and bore him four more children, Clara (who married lawyer W. S. Gillespie) and Mary (who died in childhood) plus two sons, George and David. In 1856 Chadick became pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Huntsville. About 1858 while preaching the baccalaureate sermon at Lagrange College in Alabama, Chadick received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from that institution, at last receiving college credentials. When the Civil War began, Chadick became chaplain of the 4th Alabama Infantry regiment and went to Virginia. When Col. Egbert Jones was mortally wounded at Warrenton, Virginia, Dr. Chadick accompanied the body back to Huntsville. He returned to duty and fought with the regiment in the Battle of Manassas. He also participated in the Battle of Shiloh, suffering stress trauma thereafter.

Mary Jane Chadick kept a detailed diary in Huntsville during the Civil War. See Incidents of the War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Jane Chadick by Nancy M. Rohr, published 2005. After Shiloh, Colonel Chadick was made Chief of Staff to Governor Shorter of Alabama, and given command of the North Alabama's “home guard” forces. It is said that he raised for that duty the "bed-quilt regiment." As more men were needed, Colonel Chadick searched the North Alabama hills to raise them. He brought in the old and the young, mounted on old horses, colts, and mules. Due to the cold and scarcity of warm clothing, every recruit brought a bed-quilt wrap -- all of different colors, making this "bed-quilt regiment" brightly visible during the war.

In 1867, Dr. Chadick was called to the pastorate of a church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He next went to the McMinnville Presbyterian church. From 1871 he served as minister of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga until 1877. In September, 1878, when it became clear to him that the end was near after a year of illness, he said one evening to his wife, "Watch with me tonight. I am going to change my habitation." "Where are you going?" asked his wife. "I am going to rest -- to rest in the arms of Jesus." In the morning he was truly at rest. He was buried in McMinnville.

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